Schools propose developer fee hike |

Schools propose developer fee hike

William Ferchland

To help offset the costs associated with improvements to its buildings, Lake Tahoe Unified School District is poised to increase a fee tied to new construction.

The proposed increase to its developer fees from $1 to $2.24 per square foot of residential construction would bring in extra revenue that can only be used for school facility projects such as modernization and structural retrofits.

New construction for commercial and industrial properties would also see an increase from $0.31 to $0.36 per square foot, if approved by trustees.

Homeowners will shoulder the brunt of the potential increase. In January 2004 the California allocation board set its recommended fees at $2.24 and $0.36. The LTUSD is requesting the increase based on that level.

A discussion then possible vote on the increase is scheduled to take place today during a board of education meeting, beginning at 5 p.m.

Using an average of 71 new homes being constructed each year at an average of 2,282 square-feet, approximately 355 housing units will be built during the next five years within the district, which is expected to collect $362,929 annually if the $2.24 price is approved, according to a study by Jack Schreder and Associates. The study cost the district $10,000.

The district has $10.7 million in pending projects at eight sites.

“Although the district is currently declining in enrollment, the costs of implementing planned facilities are increasing,” stated a document filed by Harriett Lacey, director of financial services at the district. “Due to the increasing cost of real estate and construction, environmental cleanup costs and scarcity of available land in the South Lake Tahoe area driving up the cost of building and modernizing existing schools, the district is seeking additional funding to support its program to construct new schools and/or reconstruct existing facilities.”

While building a new school is unlikely, Facilities Director Steve Morales noted the projects are all “appropriate improvements.”

David Cattaneo, a general building contractor, said any fee increases would be unfortunate.

“Those fees, you definitely have to put them on top of the price,” he said.

Superintendent James Tarwater said at $1, Lake Tahoe Unified School District had the lowest residential developer fee in the county.

“We feel it’s critical to have modern facilities and safe facilities for kids,” he said. “I hope everybody looks at it as everyone supporting schools.”

The are several exemptions, such as the fee not being applicable to remodels smaller than 500 square feet and seniors being charged less.

The increase in developer fees was included in recommendations by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a team of five who visited the district for three days in April to talk to staff, look over documents and gather information on budget issues.

Developer fee

— Education Code Section 17620 gives school districts the authority to levy a fee, charge, dedication or other form of requirement against any development project for the construction or reconstruction of school facilities provided the district can show justification for levying of fees

— The justification is based on the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s current reconstruction need of $10.7 million

— The amount of developer fees to be collected and available will not exceed the cost of reconstructed school facilities

— Residential development projections show that $1.8 million will be collected in residential fees in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District in the next five years

— Commercial and industrial development projections show that approximately $14,582 will be collected in fees in the next five years

— In addition to projected developer fees, the district has an estimated $3 million in bond funds and $644,000 in developer fees to contribute toward its reconstruction need of $10.7 million

Source: Justification study by Jack Schreder and Associates

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